What Is Your Scene/Chapter Aiming At?

I mentioned in the last few posts that I am reading James Scott Bell’s The Art of War for Writers. It is an essential guide for fiction writers.

Through my interaction with it, I’ve come away with a hundred different ideas. It’s like each paragraph holds four morsels to help tighten up your prose and create books that will continue to ratchet up until the final page.

One of my recent takeaways was to make sure you have a focal point for every scene you write.

Each portion of your work should be directing the audience toward something. What I mean by this is that there is something they are looking forward Archerto, some dangly little cookie that is just in front of their face. Is the character to have a visit from someone? Are they finally going to go through that door? Has your character had enough and it is time to speak up after months of getting trod on? Whatever it is, there needs to be a purpose for each scene, or in other words, the scene’s bull’s-eye.

It’s hard to write a book and be in a fictionalized world and not write for me. In a way I am. I would hope I am entertained at the placing of each word after the next otherwise why would I spend all of this time by myself typing away? But, one thing to keep in mind is that focal point. The place in the distance we are herding our audience. It’s a crescendo that is building and then instead of handing it to them, take it up an octave. This could be an action or a reveal that comes completely out of nowhere.

To take it from Mr Bell –

Every scene in your novel should have a moment or exchange that is the focal point, the bull’s-eye, the thing you are aiming at. If your scene doesn’t have a bull’s-eye, it should be cut or rewritten.  Art of War for Fiction Writer’s pg 113.

So as you consider your next chapter – the one with the scene at the café or the grocery store or standing on the parapet overlooking the battlefield, remember, what are you aiming at?



Does It Always Have To Be About Writing?

Does It Always Have To Be About Writing?

My blog has been dormant for a month now. After the last Jot Conference I came to the realization that I was not growing much as a writer, at least not in the last year. I was writing, and that is always good, but I wanted to get better. I wanted to reach another plateau.

I decided to get back into reading about writing and practicing what I read. I’m reading The Art of War for Writers by James Scott Bell. On the cover it describes the content as: fiction writing strategies, tactics, and exercises.

This book has been a revelation. It’s short, concise, like a daily devotional for the writer. I am reading it through now, and can imagine myself reading a brief chapter before my writing time in the evening.The art of war for writers

One of the most surprising things in the book was the emphasis on things other than writing. Of course, Mr. Bell mentions all writers must have a weekly word count goal built into their regimen and other routines the professional  writer-to-be must incorporate, but tucked into its pages he also suggests doing things like memorizing a Chopin ballad, play the ukulele, go for a hike, and several other activities that have nothing to do with writing.

Writing is my main hobby. I am working on another novel now and prepping a few short stories for submission, but I was getting burnt out. I gave every free moment I had to writing on my laptop. I work at a desk all day and stare at two computer monitors. I get my fill of screen time and thus it is hard to force myself to come to the computer when the day is done.

However, when it came to free time and I wanted to go for a run, or watch hockey, or just read a book, guilt would creep in. Guilt that I wasn’t getting to my daily word count. Guilt that I was being a slacker and needed to get to work! Honestly, it would eat me up.

This book has given me permission to enjoy my free time a bit more, and to do so without the guilt of not writing. I still write and still think of my novels and short stories all of the time, but it is also good to live, to refill your creative well, and to find joy in things other than writing. I also need to remember to use the revival these things can give and use it as fuel.